What is BPMN?

Hi all, I am Linh, I am the first BA of BHSoft. After a month working in BHSoft, I already got some important experiences in this role by joining in few projects. And I recognize that with the basis task of a BA: requirements gathering, elicitation, analysis and modelling, I really need a simple and efficient business tool helps me perform the BA tasks more quickly and efficiently. You will find plenty of best business analysis tools list on the Internet. However, I would like to focus on one of the most important tool (in my opinion) for BA is Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN).

  1. What is BPMN?
  2. What are purpose and benefits of BPMN?
  3. Why BPMN is important with BA?
  4. A simple sample of BPMN
  5. The disadvantages of BPMN

1 – What is BPMN?

BPMN is a flow chart method that models the steps of a planned business process from start to end. A key to Business Process Management, it visually depicts a detailed sequence of business activities and information flows needed to complete a process.

2 – What are the purpose and benefits of BPMN?

BPMN is targeted at participants and other stakeholders in a business process to gain understanding through an easy-to-understand visual representation of the steps. It’s targeted at the people who will implement the process, giving sufficient detail to enable precise implementation. It provides a standard, common language for all stakeholders, whether technical or non-technical: business analysts, process participants, managers and technical developers, as well as external teams and consultants. Ideally, it bridges the gap between process intention and implementation by providing sufficient details and clarity into the sequence of business activities.

The diagramming can be easier to understand than narrative text would be. It enables easier communication and collaboration to reach the goal of an efficient process that produces a high-quality result.

3 –  Why BPMN is important with BA?

With definition and benefits which was explained, BPMN is an excellent diagramming tool for business analysts to use to model the problem domain. Because of its emphasis on the business processes rather than the computer systems and the notation helps the business analyst integrate the computer based technical solution with the overall business processes. Documenting the business processes helps the business stakeholders and the solution team understand together the context in which the computer system works, better understand the scope of the business problem.

4 – A sample of BPMN:

 

You can find the preparing steps that a hardware retailer has to fulfill before the ordered goods can actually be shipped to the customer from the top BPMN:

  • We used only one pool and different lanes for the people involved in this process.
  • The start event “good to ship” indicates that this preparation should be done now. Right after the instantiation of the process, there are two things done in parallel, as the parallel gateway indicates: While the clerk has no decided whether this a normal postal or a special shipment, the warehouse worker can already start packaging the goods.
  • The clerk’s task, which is followed by the exclusive gateway “mode of delivery” is a good example for clarifying the recommended usage of a gateway: The gateway is not responsible for the decision whether this is a special or a postal shipment. Instead, this decision is undertaken in the activity before.
  • The gateway only works as a router, which is based on the result of the previous task, and provides alternative paths. This gateway called “excusive”, because only the following two branches can be traversed: If we need a special shipment, the clerk requests quotes from different carriers, then assigns a carrier and prepares the paperwork. But if a normal post shipment is fine, the clerk needs to check if an extra insurance is necessary. If that extra insurance is required, the logistics manager has to take out that insurance. In any case, the clerk has to fill in a postal label for the shipment. For this scenario, the shown inclusive gateway is helpful, because we can show that one branch is always taken, while the other one only if the extra insurance is required, but IF it is taken, this can happen in parallel to the first branch. Because of this parallelism, we need the synchronizing inclusive gateway right behind “Fill in a Post label” and “Take out extra insurance”. In this scenario, the inclusive gateway will always wait for “Fill in a Post label” to be completed, because that is always started. If an extra insurance was required, the inclusive gateway will also wait for “Take out extra insurance” to be finished. Furthermore, we also need the synchronizing parallel gateway before the last task “add paperwork and move package to pick area”, because we want to make sure that everything has been fulfilled before the last task is executed.

So you can see, it easier to you to look at the BPMN than look down in the detailed description of the business process. I think you will be happier to try to understand the BPMN flowchart than read and try understand the description by words :).

5 – The disadvantages of BPMN

The fact that it is a standard notation also increases the probability that stakeholders will understand the diagrams you produce, though some would argue that BPMN is complex.

One of the most common complaints against the use of BPMN for modelling processes is the initial difficulty stakeholders face in understanding the multitude of notations when compared with the existing familiarity they have with notations like flowcharts. One can however argue that flowchart symbols, generally perceived to be more clear, still have to be learnt when faced with it initially or infrequently.

In conclusion, though BPMN may seem difficult to understand at the beginning, it certainly has its benefits. BPMN is a very powerful modeling language for modeling very complex business processes, and with that, it’s often too powerful for most of what a Business Analysis does. So in the role of Business Analyst in BHSoft, my mission is always having to try to bring the best service to the customers, and BPMN is will one of my first tools to satisfy customer’s requirement. The next topic, I will try to explain more detail about the meaning of BPMN notation and how to use it.

Thank you for your time!

Linh